The American President

The American PresidentNetflix IMDb
A romantic comedy (at least I think it’s a comedy) set in the White House, with Michael Douglas as a widowed president and Annette Bening as a flustered and flattered—yet somehow hard-as-nails—lobbyist trying to conduct a romance while politics intervenes. I consider the public’s negative response to the romance to be a little silly. I ponder how the staff’s panic is a little overdone. But I praise the dialog as sharp and the direction as tight, which helps the film over its bumps, which makes sense because this was basically the prototype for the TV show The West Wing.

The White House art direction looks beautiful, which I explain at great length, as I did for The Sentinel. However, I misstate the case about the state dinner depicted; it was based on the Yeltsin dinner during the Clinton administration.

Bonus: Visit the White House Museum to see the areas described in the commentary, like the Residence second floor and West Wing first floor.

Start the commentary at the same time you start the movie. (51 MB)

The Wizard of Oz

Wizard of OzNetflix IMDb
Little Judy Garland wins friends and kills witches dead in her vain attempts to just find a way back to Kansas. I compare the movie extensively to the original novel. I explain the concept of a frame story and the minor inconsistencies in the plot, like the troublesome character of Professor Marvel. I use the word brilliant too much. I ponder the possibility that the Wicked Witch is ethnically a Winkie and wonder why the Good Witch isn’t ethnically a Munchkin.

I bust a few myths, like the one about the hanged stage hand and the one about the “Oh-ee-oh” song. I suggest that Playboy, if it had been around in 1939, might have done a pictorial of the “Girls of the Emerald City Wash & Brush Up Co.” I compare the Wicked Witch to Jaws. I suggest that the movie should have been remade in 1985 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I beg children not the follow the film’s advice of not looking for a better life beyond your own back yard.

Bonus: The entire book! Searchable and skimmable!

Start the commentary as soon as you start the movie. (47 MB)

The Sentinel

Netflix IMDb
Secret Service agent Michael Douglas squares off against Kiefer Sutherland while Eva Longoria looks on. I compare the film to In the Line of Fire, the main point being that, here, the hero is “secretly serving” the first lady and not his partner. I explain my Kiefer Sutherland Rule of Cinema. I wonder how a guy like Walter Xavier even keeps up on the sports scores, let alone gets information about an assassination plot.

I also explain every detail of the White House interiors, given my intimate familiarity, including where the director and producer are wrong in their commentary and how the Secret Service offices seem to be as big as the entire rest of the West Wing. I offer choice tidbits of presidential history and the origin of Camp David. And I contemplate the possibility that the Canadian mounties fingerprinted Paul Bunyan in 1875.

Bonus: We built an entire Web site to explain the location of this movie: White House Museum. That’s service, my friends, and it’s no secret.

Start the commentary at the same time you start the movie. (48 MB)

The 6th Day

6th DayNetflix IMDb
It’s Arnold and Arnold in an action adventure that probes the delicate social issues of the day and shoots them with lasers! I compare the film to Total Recall, Minority Report, James Bond, Frankenstein, and others. I mix up my Michaels. I get totally creeped out by the Simpal Cindy doll. I point out how Schwarzenegger’s character is simultaneously a technophobe and a technophile, depending on which tech you present him with. I ponder the fever for the flavor of a nacho banana. I raise the delicate question of why Judi Dench is never cast in this kind of film. I point out plot holes such as “why does any of this happen?”

I boldly postulate that the bad guys are not nearly as bad as some of the good guys. I also boldly postulate that Michael Rappaport is not a cat person, but I may still have him mixed up with Michael Rooker or possibly Michael Ironside. I make the mistake of saying that Adam 1 got a RePet instead of a Simpal Cindy, when both Adam 1 and Adam 2 got Simpals. Plus: free advice to young filmmakers and mad industrialists!

Start the commentary file as soon as you start the movie. (55 MB)

Total Recall

Total RecallNetflix IMDb
Join me for what is not my favorite movie but nevertheless a classic part of the Schwarzenegger oeuvre. I compare it to The 6th Day and other films and explain where it goes off the rails regardless of which story you believe: the dream story, the reality story, or the alternate reality story, or even the alternate-alternate reality story.

I pity the poor rats. I try to find the point the movie may stray from reality. I say “If this is reality…” too many times and get distracted by Sharon Stone. And I get carried away with saying that Paul Verhoeven got carried away with the head games. I don’t bother much with the “science”, but I do make fun of Cohaagen’s henchmen being the worst secret agents ever. And, at some point, I believe I may have suffered a schizoid embolism.

Start the commentary file as soon as you see the DVD player register 0h 0m 1s. (52 MB)

Foul Play

Foul PlayNetflix IMDb
Join me for a great romantic comedy/thriller from 1978 starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. Hawn fends off the world with a yellow umbrella. Chase embraces the world clumsily. Dudley Moore tries to screw the world unsuccessfully. The pope thinks The Mikado is supposed to end with dead guys hanging from the mast of a ship from another production. Maybe he just thinks it’s “far out.” I compare the film to other romantic comedies and other thrillers as well as to Far Out Space Nuts.

I don’t talk quite as much in this one, but I think the observations are a little richer insights into theme, character, and plotting, and not narrating the scenes so much. I forget to mention that the title is a play on words, since the assassination attempt occurs during a stage performance—a comic opera, actually, but Foul Opera would sound silly. I did slip in a mention in editing that the setup is borrowed from The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Bonus: The opening scene location and angle in Google Earth (turn on 3D buildings to see the Golden Gate Bridge)

Start the movie by pressing Play when I give the instruction. (54 MB).

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce VitaNetflix IMDb
Ooh la la! A silly experimental avant garde attempt at doing a commentary on a film I’ve never seen before. I watch this Fellini classic for the very first time, recording my amusement, confusion, frustration, and eventual disappointment. If you already know and love the film, laugh at my provincial attitude. If you hate it, laugh with me while I try desperately to enjoy it. I mention how the word paparazzi comes from the character of Paparazzo. I consider how much I like Marcello Mastroianni in principle. I mock how ridiculous “Casanova Xavier” is as a name for an American rock-and-roller. I misidentify Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” as “…G Minor” (but what are a few letters between friends?) I’m moved by the tragedy that develops, but ultimately feel that it is squandered, which may have been Fellini’s point, for all I know.

Start the movie when at the very beginning credits when I give the instruction. (81 MB)


CasablancaNetflix IMDb
My favorite film. I did a commentary for this a couple of years ago that was good but sounded lousy and was in three parts. With everybody downloading big podcasts over broadband, it might as well be in one file, so I’ve rerecorded it. I describe the historical context as well as the themes and how the plot points are foreshadowed and resolved.

I explain the “General DeGaulle/Weygand” mix-up and how the characters relate to the larger picture of Europe in the midst of World War 2, particularly how characters are introduced early and kept alive in the background until they become important.

Note: I mistakenly say that Rick fought in Spain in 1935, when the film clearly says 1936 (the Spanish Civil War didn’t start until mid-1936).

Start the movie at the very beginning credits when I give the instruction. (49 MB)


SerenityNetflix IMDb
It’s the rip-roaring, high-stakes, high-drama tall tale of the Serenity‘s greatest adventure ever! The crew is dogged by an Alliance operative almost as crazy as Jubal Early. I apologize to the people of Great Britain on behalf of the entire American film industry. I should apologize to Chiwetel Ejiofor for butchering his name horribly. Mal and the Hole-in-the-Boat Gang take an Alliance payroll but are set upon by reavers. Simon busts Mal a good one and gets dumped on a planet where River is driven cuckoo by a Fruity Oaty Bar commercial. Wash suggests they talk to their old friend, Mr. Universe. Yes. Mr. Universe. You remember him. Inara wants Mal to come and not fight with her. Trap! I show off my English degree my identifying “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Book will take his secrets to the grave. Wash doesn’t have any secrets, but if he did, so would he. River is carrying a politician’s secret to a lot of other people’s graves. The horror of the Pax is exposed. Kaylee and Simon sort out their romantic difficulties by killing reavers. River becomes a Super Bass-o-matic. Inara might hang around. All’s well that ends we— Wait… what’s with the graves?

I’m watching the R1 DVD version. Start the film on the countdown.

Firefly series

I wrote an analysis of Firefly and Serenity, but I found that I wasn’t done with thinking about it. So I started doing audio commentaries. I love audio commentaries found on DVDs and often listen to fan commentaries of movies I especially like. In fact, the presence of commentaries by the director, producer, stars, and effects guys regularly sway my DVD purchase. I hate bare-bones DVDs and often wait for special editions. Are you listening Hollywood?
Continue reading Firefly series

Running commentaries that you listen to while you watch the movie.